Deferrals at DLA Piper: Future trainees offered grants to delay start date

June 30, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Due to the impact of COVID-19, DLA Piper is attempting to stagger their 2020 intake by offering various deferral grants for new trainees.

What does this mean?

DLA Piper has offered three options for new trainees to begin their training contract:

  1. To begin one’s training contract as originally intended this August 2020
  2. To voluntarily defer by a period of six months, begin in February 2021 and receive £5,000
  3. To voluntarily defer by an even longer period, begin in August 2021 and receive £10,000

This approach is a drastic but pragmatic response from one of the world’s largest law firms by headcount and revenue. Its purpose may be to reduce expenditure, an approach which businesses in the UK are familiar with due to the furlough scheme introduced by the UK government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Announcing the measures, DLA Piper’s UK managing partner Liam Cowell was keen to stress that the deferrals will benefit trainees by “fostering an environment that is supportive and collaborative”, while the firm prepares “for a gradual and voluntary return to offices” in accordance with government guidelines.

What's the big picture effect?

Notably, DLA Piper is not alone in adopting such measures in their response to the impact of COVID-19. Irwin Mitchell has also delayed their training contract start dates by six months. Equally, many other firms are reverting to virtual vacation schemes over the summer months. 

There are however concerns about the long-term implications of the delays and questions remain as to how such firms will onboard their 2021 intakes, given they may have also offered contracts to these future trainees. With approximately 70 trainees predicted to be recruited by DLA Piper each round, there may be a surplus of trainees qualifying around the same time in a matter of years. Deferrals are likely to result in even more competitive application and qualification processes.

Overall, whether adopted as a financial measure to preserve resources or to ensure that the training provided is of the highest standard possible, it will be interesting to see how many more law firms will deem such measures to be necessary. So long as the economy continues to suffer, firms that lack the financial clout of DLA Piper may struggle to offer attractive grants to those trainees they wish to defer.

Report written by Karolina Smolicz

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